Universiteit Leiden

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Maria Riep

PhD candidate

Drs. M. Riep
+31 71 527 2171

Maria Riep is a PhD candidate at the Faculty of Archaeology.

More information about Maria Riep


Of Words and Lands: Perspectives on Landscape along the Syr Darya for the 7th and 8th Century 

In my thesis, I analyze different perspectives on the landscape of the valleys in the northwestern Tianshan in the 7th and 8th century in historical narratives, the archaeological record, and the physical environment. I argue how distinguishing perspectives on landscape brings about a different interpretation of historical narratives. In the 7th and 8th century, along the northwestern ranges of the Tianshan mountains, a varied landscape of mountain slopes, grassland, and river valleys was inhabited by city dwellers, artisans, farmers, pastoralists etcetera. Kingdoms such as Fergana, Ushrushana, or Shash were strategically located along the borders of large empires, such as the West-Turkic Empires, the Tang Chinese Empire, the Tibetan Empire, and the Abbasid Empire. They were also located along the northern paths of what today is commonly addressed as ‘the silk road’. In historical analysis, main political events, affiliations of local political rulers, and local processes, are often considered in this context. Such a position, at the strategic outskirts of empires, partly comes forward from the narratives of these empires. They in turn are based on reports of travelers, conquests, and diplomatic interaction. These travelers came from far away and identified the landscape according to their paths and engagements along the route. These narratives then turned into narratives fitting the world view of the writers and readers. They became but a selection and interpretation of the original track. (The process of map-making.) Backgrounded in these narratives are more regional connections between the valley and its neighbors on the other side of the mountains (the Ili valley or Kashgar). These regional connections may have been at least as important for local geo-political events. Local historical processes would result from and cause new local mobility (The process of mapping), in turn connecting to local interpretations of a landscape. My thesis consists of three parts. In the first part, I distinguish different historical interpretations of the Syr Darya landscape over the longue durée and connect these interpretations to their origin. In the second part, I foreground local relations in sources relating to the 7th and 8th century and weigh these references up against historical and geographical silence. In the third part, I study local use and interpretation of the landscape through spatial analysis (GIS) of the archaeological infrastructure and the physical geography. The aim in my research is to allow every source to tell its own story within its own disciplinary context. 

Supervisors: Prof. dr. J.A.C. Vroom (Archeology), Prof. dr. G.P. van den Berg (Humanities)

PhD candidate

  • Faculteit Archeologie
  • World Archaeology
  • Near Eastern
  • Included in internal register
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